Jenny has taken an overdose of pain meds. Nothing immediately life-threatening, but serious enough to warrant a trip to A&E. Her partner Geoff doesn’t need to get anything ready. Jenny was only discharged from the psychiatric hospital yesterday, and they haven’t unpacked yet.
He kisses her goodbye at the door, tells her he’ll be up later. It’s difficult for him, what with the pets and everything. But he’s used to it. Jenny’s been overdosing like this for years. The only surprise each time is the ease with which she’s still able to get hold of pills, her own prescription tightly regulated.
She takes my arm. I lead her to the ambulance.
‘Cold tonight,’ I say.
She doesn’t answer.
* * *
At the hospital the charge nurse greets us wearily. It’s been another busy night, but the crowds are thinning now and he’s got time to think.
He grabs the clipboard and wheels the portable obs machine in our direction.
‘Hello,’ he says. ‘My name’s Jack. What brings you to A&E tonight?’
He starts copying down some information from my sheet whilst I tell him the story – the overdose, the reason she took it, what it was and when.
‘Ah-ha,’ he says, putting the clipboard aside and wrapping a cuff round her arm. ‘Have you done this kind of thing before, Jenny?’
‘Yeah – I thought I recognised you. Weren’t you in last week?’
She nods again.
‘Oh-kay. So tell me what happened tonight. Your man here tells me you took all these tablets. Why’d you do that, Jenny? Was it deliberate?’
‘And would you go so far as to say you intended to kill yourself? Is that what you wanted from all this?’
‘Okay. That’s fine.’
He writes down the blood pressure, SATS and pulse, takes a quick temperature then unwraps the cuff from her arm.
‘I just need to have a quick word to see where we’re going. Back in a minute.’
Jenny shifts restlessly on the chair.
‘I don’t like him,’ she says after a while. ‘He thinks I’m a burden.’
‘Oh no, Jenny. I don’t think he does. It’s been really busy here tonight. He’s probably just exhausted.’
‘He thinks I shouldn’t be here. I can tell by the way he looks at me. He thinks I’m a waste of time.’
‘I don’t think he does, Jenny.’
She’s not convinced.
She sits in the chair, holding on to the suitcase, jigging her leg up and down.
We both watch as Jack hands over to the main desk. The cubicle board is full, closely written in black and red, hectic as the tote board at a racetrack. Jack is there a little while. At one point he hangs on to the counter and stretches his back. The charge nurse takes a cloth, makes a change to the board. When Jack straightens up, the charge nurse is biting the end of the pen, studying the board. Then he tosses the pen back into the clutter on the desk and says something to Jack. They both laugh.
Jenny’s leg stops jigging and she straightens in the chair like she’s just been slapped.She draws her suitcase closer in.